What to look for when buying used furniture from thrift stores

Darren Keefe, co-host of

Darren Keefe, co-host of HGTV’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” will present at the Southern Ideal Home Show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, April 8-10.

Courtesy of Market Events

Repair, reuse and reuse.

These are the three Rs to keep in mind when shopping for used furniture, says HGTV star Darren Keefe, who is appearing at the Southern Ideal Home Show in Raleigh this weekend.

Keefe, co-host of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” is a skilled craftsman and furniture maker whose “goal is to spread kindness and humor through design and everyday DIY.” He is a big proponent of finding quality used furniture instead of buying inferior, mass-produced items.

Keefe appears at this weekend’s three-day event at the NC State Fairgrounds, which runs April 8-10. The News & Observer told him about his passion for fine furniture and how shopping at thrift stores can be a budget-friendly way to add long-lasting pieces to your home.

At the bottom of the story you will find information about the Southern Ideal Home Show and how you can attend and see Keefe in person.

Why is it important to buy quality furniture?

You might think that the old adage “they don’t make them like they used to” is just a cliché. But when it comes to furniture, it really often is, Keefe said.

Furniture that was produced 50 to 100 years ago, or even earlier, was usually built with quality materials that were made to last. The craftsmanship, with features such as mortise and tenon joinery, adds to the durability and longevity of older pieces, Keefe said.

“I think when people were buying furniture, you know, centuries ago, they were buying it for life,” Keefe said. “It was something they expected to pass on from generation to generation. They were buying heirlooms.

Now, however, furniture is often mass-produced, using less substantial materials, such as particle board. These materials are unlikely to last, and they don’t have as much character as old, vintage pieces.

“You can’t expect these things to be transmitted,” Keefe said. “They’ll recover from water damage very easily. They just won’t last.

Keefe’s Top Tips for Quality Furniture

If you’re looking to add quality furniture to your home or other living spaces, finding new pieces can be difficult unless you shop at a high-end, expensive furniture store.

It’s easier and more affordable, Keefe said, to buy quality second-hand furniture — or even reuse items you already have.

Keefe has identified the “three Rs” for buying quality furniture, along with some other tips:

Reuse. Look for quality pieces at thrift stores or other thrift stores, including antique stores. By buying used, you reuse parts that others have found not to work well in their home, giving them new life. And this tip works both ways: If you have quality furniture in your home that you no longer want, try donating it and letting others use it in their own space.

Repair. Wood glue is your friend,” Keefe said. Some furniture you get may need a little more love before it can really shine in your space, especially if it’s older. This may simply involve sanding down a part, or it may involve larger repairs. Don’t be afraid to work on parts to make them work.

Reuse. Find a room you like the shape of, but hate the color? Or maybe you would like to use a room for a different purpose than it was originally intended. Keefe recommends reusing pieces based on your design preferences and lifestyle. Try changing the color of a piece with paint or stains, or adding new hardware or buttons.

Not sure if you’re getting quality, durable furniture when you’re at the thrift store? Keefe recommended check the back of the furniture. If the piece is made of particleboard, the back will probably be a dead giveaway.

Enjoy. Keefe recommends thinking about savings and identifying furniture for your living space as something you can have fun with. Try bringing your family or friends for your thrift store adventures, or even consider every project and piece of furniture as a work of art. And the good news? In most cases, errors are reversible or can be hidden. Don’t worry too much or put too much pressure on yourself to make things perfect.

Darren Keefe (1_fitted.jpeg
Darren Keefe, co-host of HGTV’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” will present at the Southern Ideal Home Show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, April 8-10. Courtesy of Market Events

More information on the Southern Ideal Home Show

The Southern Ideal Home Show features over 250 booths where you can shop exclusive deals from vendors, chat with industry experts and find inspiration.

The show takes place this weekend, April 8-10, at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds (4285 Trinity Road, Raleigh).

More details:

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on April 8 and 9 and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 10.

The event will take place in two buildings at the State Fairgrounds: the Exhibit Center and the Jim Graham Building. You can participate in the event in either building. The call will be located in the exhibition center.

Parking for the event is free. You can enter Hillsborough Street, Youth Center Road and Trinity Road.

The event requires tickets, which can be purchased online in advance or onsite at the fairgrounds. To purchase tickets online, go to raleighfairgroundshomeandgardenshow.mpetickets.com.

Tickets for attendees ages 13 and older are $9 if purchased online and $12 if purchased on site at the box office.

Children 12 and under can attend the event for free when accompanied by a paying adult.

The show offers reduced rates to certain groups on certain days of the event.

Seniors (60+) can attend for $7 on Friday, April 8. Tickets must be purchased at the box office and you must show valid ID to receive the discount.

Friday is also “Heroes’ Day”. All active military, veterans, firefighters, police and other first responders can attend the show for free on Fridays only. Show a valid ID at the box office to receive your ticket.

Sunday is “Teacher’s Day”. Teachers and school staff can attend the show for free on Sundays only. Present a valid teacher ID at the box office to receive your ticket.

Curious to know which suppliers will be present at the event? You can find a full list of show exhibitors at raleighfairgroundshomeandgardenshow.com/virtual-home/shop-the-show.

How to see Darren Keefe at the Southern Ideal Home Show

Keefe will present fresh ideas live on stage and teach attendees how to make a simple garden bed at the following times during this weekend’s home show:

Friday, April 8, at 1 p.m.

Saturday April 9, at 1 p.m.

The presentation will also include a Q&A segment with the HGTV star.

Learn more about Keefe ahead of the event at raleighfairgroundshomeandgardenshow.com/show-features and darrenkeefe.com.

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Korie Dean is a reporter with The News & Observer’s service journalism team. She is a graduate of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC-Chapel Hill and a lifelong North Carolina.

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